LA Weekly Review of West of Lincoln Project

An Artist Remembers Venice in the ’70s, When Growing Up Was an Act of Survival

Ruth Chase with two of her paintings at the opening of "West of Lincoln"

Ruth Chase with two of her paintings at the opening of “West of Lincoln”
Jennifer Swann

Eddie Hadvina points to the painting of himself as an 11-year-old Boy Scout. In it, he’s wearing an olive green cap and a red kerchief with his khaki uniform, a skateboard in one hand and a trophy in the other. On his left shoulder is a patch representing Venice’s Troop 34, which he joined at his mother’s insistence.

“That’s where all the trouble started,” says Hadvina, now 56 and sporting a gray goatee. “That’s where I met all my Venice Hoodlum friends,” he says, referring to a street gang that was active in the neighborhood in the 1970s.

Hadvina’s parents, both Hungarian immigrants, visited Venice on their honeymoon in 1960 — Hadvina says he was conceived during that trip — and decided to move there two years later. Hadvina discovered skateboarding when the sport was still brand-new and being pioneered in the neighborhood by people like Stacy Peralta, one of his peers. But Hadvina’s substance abuse problems weakened his chances of becoming a professional skateboarder.

“When I was a teenager I was really good at skateboarding and surfing,” he says. “But every time I showed up to skateboard, I’d never make it in [to the skate park] because they’d all be partying and I love partying.”

Hadvina, who on a recent Saturday wore a baseball cap and a T-shirt printed with images of the Venice Skate Park, is one of the subjects featured in artist Ruth Chase’s exhibition “West of Lincoln.” The show of a dozen paintings and accompanying audio portraits, which opened earlier this month and runs through Sept. 10 at the nonprofit Venice Arts gallery, seeks to tell the stories of people who grew up west of Lincoln Boulevard in the 1970s, when the neighborhood was better known for poverty, gang violence and a burgeoning youth skating culture than for billion-dollar tech companies, designer boutiques and trendy restaurants.

Like Hadvina, many others featured in Chase’s project experienced violence and addiction to drugs and alcohol from a young age. Some spent years trying to recover from habits they picked up on the streets of Venice. Nearly all recall a tough, eclectic neighborhood that felt nothing like the wealthy, sterilized enclave it is today.

“Most people either dealt with drive-by shootings — I got jumped — or knew somebody that died because of a gunshot or a knife, a stabbing,” says Chase, who grew up in the neighborhood in the ’70s and describes the culture as one of survival. “We always used to say, you go east of Lincoln to see green lawns and two parents.”

“You had to have a little bit of an edge or you’d get picked on,” says David Fowler, one of the people Chase featured in the show. “You had to hold your own, and people had to know that you were tough enough not to mess with.”

At the same time, Venice Beach was attracting free-spirited 20- and 30-somethings who moved there from across the country to live the so-called hippie lifestyle and find work on the boardwalk, with its tourist-friendly arcade games and cafes. “They experience Venice entirely different than a local does,” Chase says. “It was a weird contrast.”

Skateboarders David Fowler, left, and Eddie Hadvina

Skateboarders David Fowler, left, and Eddie Hadvina
Jennifer Swann

The first time Chase noticed Abbot Kinney becoming a destination was when Hal’s Bar and Grillopened on the block — then known simply as Washington Boulevard — when she was still a teenager. “We were on welfare. My mom, she didn’t read or write, she didn’t drive a car, and Hal’s moved in and it was like, ‘Wow, this is a cool fancy new place,’” Chase says. “I remember taking my mom there and realizing she couldn’t afford to eat there.”

Rhonda Lynn Wise, one of the subjects featured in the show, says it’s no wonder the area gentrified so quickly: It’s home to beachfront property. And yet, for years, she says, “West of Lincoln was a ghost town. That’s where the Latinos and the blacks and the surfers lived.”

Venice began to shed its ghost-town reputation in the 1990s, when developers swooped in aggressively. “Venice was the type of town where you passed your property down to your family,” Wise says. “When these developers came in, they put very large price tags on these homes. When someone offers you a million dollars for your home, you’re probably going to sell it.”

Rhonda Lynn Wise stands next to the painting inspired by her life.

Rhonda Lynn Wise stands next to the painting inspired by her life.
Jennifer Swann

Wise says her family never owned property, and she still marvels at the fact that her single mother was able to raise three kids in a three-bedroom apartment near the beach for about $300 a month. “It’s unheard of now,” she says.

Chase, who now lives in Northern California, came up with the idea for the “West of Lincoln” project during a visit to Abbot Kinney in 2014 — just a year before Hal’s was priced out of the block and was forced to relocate to Playa Vista. Chase found herself standing in the middle of the street, disoriented by what she was seeing: high-end shops and restaurants in every direction. When she returned home, she wanted to find other people who could relate to the quaint, scary, weird Venice of her childhood. She thought maybe they all shared similar experiences growing up, and she wondered how those experiences might have affected them as adults. She posted ads on Facebook and Craigslist seeking people willing to be interviewed and then painted. Getting them to trust her wasn’t easy.

“What I’d hear was, ‘Well, who the fuck are you?’” Chase says, imitating her critics. “‘What do you want? You’re just part of that motherfucking gentrification and you’re just gonna tell our stories and make money off it.’”

But word-of-mouth spread and Chase eventually found a group that agreed to participate, but only after she proved that she was one of them: a Venice native with no monetary incentive. It helped that she also guaranteed her subjects full creative input over the final result. Chase conducted interviews and then hired a writer, Gena Lasko — thanks to a grant from the Carl Jacobs Foundation — to condense them into short biographies.

Chase’s paintings are not intended as acts of realism but representations of each person’s upbringing and most transformational experiences. Hadvina, for example, is portrayed as a Boy Scout, but behind him is an adult silhouette referencing his present. The silhouette is painted to look like water, a nod to the empty swimming pools he got in trouble for skating in as a kid.

Chase’s painting of Fowler, a skateboarder who also struggled with drugs and alcohol, depicts him flying through the air on his board. On the bottom of his deck are the faces of his wife, children and parents. The visual is a metaphor for his support of his family through various health crises, including both his wife’s and his mother’s ovarian cancer diagnoses several years ago. Now a real estate agent in Venice, Fowler says he’s lucky to raise his kids in the same neighborhood where he and his wife both grew up, especially now that he can teach them not to repeat the same mistakes he made.

“Our kids go to the same elementary school we went to 40 years ago. It’s so amazing,” he says, “to be an example to them so they don’t have to suffer the way we did.”

After all these years, Hadvina and Fowler haven’t given up on their skater roots. They both ride for Santa Monica Airlines Skateboards and Hadvina still competes in competitions aimed at older skaters. Sober for more than two decades, it’s as if they’re getting to redo the childhoods they never had.

“We’re still doing airs out of pools,” Hadvina says. “We’re skating like kids.”

The closing reception for “West of Lincoln” is Sun., Sept. 10, 10 a.m.-noon, at Venice Arts, 13445 Beach Ave., Marina del Rey; (310) 392-0846,

2018 – 1985 Work by Ruth Chase

A look back to 1985 , starting from the most recent works finished just today, January 1, 2018.

2017 was the most amazing year for me as an artist. The West of Lincoln Project was exhibited in Venice and the whole event changed my life for the better. I look forward to 2018 as I will be painting a series for the Belonging project here in Nevada County, CA.

Happy New Year, with all my love,



Identity 2018

“How do you identify ethnically?” I recently had my DNA tested from which only one nationality showed up on the test out of a long list of nationalities I was raised to believe  I was made up of. I grew up in a neighborhood that was equally black and latino, as far as I was concerned I was more black and latino than what my test results showed.

Faceted 12 x 9 acrylic on canvas by Ruth Chase 2018 about identity pink black figure women
Faceted, 12 x 9″ acrylic on canvas
How Do You Identify, 12 x 9 acrylic on canvas by Ruth Chase, identity, pink, hand, black figure
How Do You Identify, 12 x 9″, acrylic on canvas, Boudreaux Collection
Innocence Before Branding, by Ruth Chase 9 x 12 acrylic on canvas, identity, pink, 2018
Innocence Before Branding, 12 x 9″ acrylic on canvas, Snelgrove Collection
SHE, by Ruth Chase 12 x 16 acrylic on canvas, identity, pink, 2018
SHE, 12 x 16″ acrylic on canvas

West of Lincoln Project 2017

Documents the history of Venice through the life stories of people who grew up in Venice, California, as told through large-scale paintings, video, the Venice Tribute Wall, written biogrophies and audio interviews.

West of Lincoln, 2017, acrylic on canvas
Second Chance by Ruth Chase LARGE FILE
Second Chance, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36″
Never Forget Where You Came From, Always Remember Where You’re Going, acrylic on canvas, 48 × 48″
Place Of Strength, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36″


Artist as Mother Series 2015

An introspection of motherhood, the struggles I have being my daughter’s teacher, when really she is my teacher, and finding humor in the painful growth stages we both encounter.  Drawn intuitively, scribbling lines until I can feel an image out of a mess that speaks to me, allowing an element of surprise by what my unconscious is delivering in form.

Mommy Play Date by Ruth Chase
Play-date, 2015, charcoal and pencil on paper
Art about mother and daughter, art with a concept, charcoal line drawing
Daughter Birthing Mother, 2015, charcoal on paper
Charcoal on Paper
Alone, 2015, charcoal on paper
one eyed charcoal drawing, art, charcoal on paper, california artist, surreal
Cycle, 2015, charcoal on paper
Playing With Shapes by Ruth Chase Charcoal on Paper 14x17inches 2015
2015, charcoal on paper

Becoming a Better Sinner Series 2014

About the structures we put in place to try to make us feel right or belong that result in a residue of guilt from self-betrayal. Here I’m playing with the meaning of the word, a word with so much charge and button-pushing in our world. I find that what others may call a sin isn’t really what I would call a sin.

Acrylic on Paper, Surreal Painting, Art, Eye Art, Figurative Art, Emerging Artist, California Artist, Charcoal Drawing, Contemporary Charcoal Drawing, Unique Drawing
In The Eyes of the Beholder, 2014, paint and charcoal on Paper

Oil Paintings 

From my studies at the San Francisco Art Institute and the years that followed.


Details of Piece, 1989, 4 x6′, Oil on Canvas
Cora by Ruth Chase
2003, 3 x 4′, Oil on Canvas, Boudreaux Collection
Oil on canvas portrait, art about spirituality
3 x 4′, 2004, Oil on Canvas, Robenalt Collection
1991, 4 x 6′, Oil on Canvas, Ocampo Collection
No Utopia Here, 1989, 4 x 6′, Oil on Canvas
Visiting With Edna, Instant Coffee and Charcoal on paper

Arrange a Studio Visit

I invite you to visit my studio anytime. No worries, you don’t have to be an art collector to have a reason to visit either.

Depending on my work schedule I will have something I’m working on that is progress, as well as older work to view. If you have questions about art, mine or in general, bring them with you, I love to talk shop.

I am located just three miles from downtown Nevada City, CA. Feel free to call me or use message form below. Ruth Chase  530-409-2330


BELONGING Call to Artists


BELONGING is about our vulnerable mountain home. The people who tend it, love it and depend on it, and mobilizing perspectives to create a deeper sense of connection between them, between members of our community and the land we all share.

Eligibility: Nevada County
Entry Deadline: 4/7/2018
Art Delivery Date: TBD
Exhibition: 5/2/2018 – 7/30/2018
Opening Reception: 5/27/2018
Organization: Nevada County Arts Council

Contact Email: RuthChaseFineArt @
Contact Phone: 530.409.2330

My name is Ruth Chase and I’m an artist in residence with the Nevada County Arts Council for BELONGING. We are looking for artists in Nevada County, CA who want to participate in this exhibition and have or want to create work around the above theme.

More about BELONGING…

Submission form below or send me a message or text me and we can chat.

Ruth Chase

Artist in Residence | Nevada County Arts Council
Artistic Director | BELONGING
A California Arts Council Artists Activating Communities initiative






  • What does belonging look and feel like ?
  • What does it look and feel like to not belong ?
  • A portrait of how you find a sense of belonging in nature ?
  • A place that holds a special feeling outside and in nature ?
  • How does a sense of purpose relate to belonging ?
  • Does anyone inspire you from the BELONGING featured participants ?
  • How would someone find a sense of belonging on the land ?


Image by Lori Lachmam, who is following BELONGING to document its journey. Her work will be exhibited at the BELONGING Exhibition in June.

Nevada County Arts Coucil logo 2017     CAClogo_stackedRGB_2

Who will be the next featured portrait for the West of Lincoln Project?

Submit yourself or someone else to be the next FEATURED PORTRAIT in the West of Lincoln Project


  • Has attended a Venice, CA school
  • Was born prior to 1970
  • Feels that growing up in Venice gave them wisdom worth sharing
  • Wants to be a part of Venice history



Thank you for your interest in the West of Lincoln Project. Only one person is chosen per year to be painted for a featured portrait.  If you submit someone then you will receive an email as confirmation within 5 days. I keep all submissions for future consideration.

You can follow this project on Facebook Group page to see weekly updates. I am also on Instagram, Twitter and have a monthly newsletter.



West of Lincoln Project


Dear Collectors & Fans,

The paintings from the West of Lincoln Project are available to collectors. If you love Venice like I do, this is a fabulous opportunity to collect visual  documentation of Venice’s colorful history. Your family will treasure these paintings for generations to come. Please visit or call  Elysa Voshell at the Venice Arts Gallery to reserve your West Of Lincoln Project painting today. Exhibition ends this Sunday, SEP 10th.

Every painting in the portrait series includes the written biography that accompanies it and the “West of Lincoln” painting includes audio stories.


In the Collection of  “YOUR NAME HERE “


By purchasing a painting you are collecting a part of Venice history and may be asked to exhibit your painting for a future exhibition as the collector.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this historic series. Please call me if you have further questions or better yet come to the closing reception.



Ruth Chase


West Of Lincoln Project
Closing Reception: Sunday, September 10, 10 am-12 pm
10:30 Brief artist talk about the project and using art for positive social change.
VENICE ARTS, 13445 Beach AVE, Marina del Rey, CA 90292
By appointment via (310.392.0846) Elysa Voshell


Collectors Ltd. Edition Prints

“West of Lincoln” for Collectors

All prints are from original artwork by Ruth Chase

In 2017 the West of Lincoln Project opened at Venice Arts Gallery to a crowd of over 400. The project was more than two years in the making and involved over 300 participants, each of whom was chosen to convey different perspectives and a broad spectrum of experiences. Like Chase, these subjects grew up and attended school in Venice. Chase worked in ongoing collaboration with each individual to create painted portraits reflecting both the subject’s life growing up in Venice and the powerful insights that arose from this street smarts.


“West of Lincoln” $70.00 
Giclee Print – Limited Edition of 100 – Signed & Numbered

  • Image size 16 x 20″ with  2″ white border, outside dimensions 28 x 34″
  • Signed by Ruth Chase
  • Epson Cold press watercolor
  • Signed and numbered by artist
  • Only 100 printed
  • Comes with certificate of authenticity
  • $70 + S&H + tax = $85.95


“West of Lincoln” $150.00 
Giclee Print – Limited Edition of 50 – Signed & Numbered

  • Image size 24 x 30″ with 2″ white border, outside dimensions 28 x 34″
  • Signed by Ruth Chase
  • Epson Cold press watercolor
  • Signed and numbered by artist
  • Only 100 printed
  • Comes with certificate of authenticity
  • $150 + S&H + tax = $172.75


by Ruth Chase 2000 size
“West of Lincoln”
Original painting is an acrylic on canvas
48 x 60″,  2017, by Ruth Chase




Learn more about the West of Lincoln Project

West of Lincoln Project Opening Reception Photos

On August 5th Venice Arts Gallery hosted the West of Lincoln Project to a crowd of somewhere between 300 – 400 guests. Denise Woods and Fernando Manzanilla couldn’t attend, their presence was very missed as both of them played an important roll in the project.

The exhibition will be available to view through September 10 with a Closing Reception on September 10, 10 -12.

Special thanks to Ray Rae and Venice Arts for the awesome photos, check out Ray Rae’s work at, and Venice Arts at



West of Lincoln Project



YoVenice – Venice History Though the People Raised Here

An interview with Mel of YoVenice

Venice girl forever. Artist Ruth Chase as a young woman. Courtesy: Ruth Chase.


Venice History Though the People Raised Here

by Melanie Camp.

For two years, Yo! Venice has followed Venice-raised artist Ruth Chase as she worked on a series of large scale paintings, recorded audio interviews, and collected the stories of those who have, and do call Venice home.

The West of Lincoln Project traces the history of Venice through the people who grew up in the neighborhood. This Saturday, August 5th, at Venice Arts, the Project opens. On the eve of her exhibition, Chase shares how she feels about the changes to the community and why she will always be a Venice woman.

How do you feel?

Other than excitement, I have a little fear, some anxiety mixed in with a deep sense of love and pride from Venice. It’s been a journey that I have not taken alone, up to 300 people have participated in this project along the way. I suppose that is what has kept me going. This project has held a lot of emotion that has collected along the way. I’m not so stressed about the opening, I know the opening will be off the hook, my anxiety is more about showing up as a whole person when I have played small most of my life. Some will dig the paintings, but I think what makes this event powerful is that it is real and from the heart, mixed in with memories about the Venice that most people will relate to or go away with a greater understanding for a city that has all eyes on it.

The stories of those who have, and do call Venice home. Courtesy: Ruth Chase.

What was it like hearing the Venice stories of so many people who grew up here?

It’s been life changing. I’m sure I have listened to well over a 100 Venice stories over the past two years. The other day I was editing the audio that goes with the West of Lincoln painting, and I couldn’t stop crying because everyone had this special bond with Venice, past, and present. It made me realize what a sense of belonging really is and that it doesn’t go away.  I heard once that you can’t know who you are until you know who you’ve been. Listening to the stories made me realize just how tough Venice was, not just for me, but for most people. People that grew up here tend to be authentic, outspoken, protective, passionate, and what you see is what you get kinda people.

Can you share an example of a particularly moving story you discovered?

Ohh that’s a tough one, they all moved me in one way, or another or I wouldn’t have been able to paint them. I think one that stands out for me is Gloria Olivas Omar because her insight was so unique. She titled her painting “Place of Strength” for a very moving reason. When I interviewed her, I knew she was completing treatment for stage four breast cancer. My first question was how Gloria was dealing with all of it. Her answer was that she held a vision of herself as a little girl. That her less than perfect childhood actually empowered her, that those years would serve her as an adult and fuel her inner strength. My take on it was that when children are hurt, they know only to look for love, that is their instinct, even in the worst of circumstances. As we worked on the painting over the three months, she impressed on me that it takes courage to love. If you have that, you win!

“Going through cancer was nothing compared to what I went through as a kid, but it has required the courage of that little girl from the beach. I never thought that the challenges in my childhood would be my source of strength, but it is. There is strength in innocence” – Gloria Olivas Omar

One other to choose from would be Ananda Jaynes photo submission for “West of Lincoln” painting. It’s an image of her holding her little brother Joe, walking down the boardwalk with their mom who would pass away from cervical cancer. Joe and Ananda wouldn’t see each other for over 30 years shortly after the picture was taken until Joe’s wife saw the image of the painting online and was able to contact Ananda. Now they are all meeting at the Opening for the first time in 30 years. That was awesome for me to be a small part of that.

Chase’s childhood home at 523 Rialto Ave in Venice. Courtesy: Ruth Chase.

You grew up in Venice. What were your thoughts on Venice before and then after working on the Project?

BEFORE: Growing up here I knew nothing else. The only thing that was clear in my head was that we were poor and that outside world looked down on where I lived and how we lived. It was us and them.

In 2014: I walked around Abbott Kinney Blvd., I felt sick to my stomach and confused. If I were visiting someone else’s home town, I would love all the fancy shops, the good hipster food, but not when it was in my Venice. It felt like I had landed in another time and I couldn’t identify anything I knew about “home” or as a place that I had ever been before. I felt very displaced. Where the fuck was I?

AFTER THE PROJECT: I can see now that I used this project to work out the multi layered relationship I had with Venice then and now. Now I see Venice as an energy; it’s alive, it’s ever changing, and it has people who live there that really, really care about it. My hope is that others will understand Venice better through these stories. That as Venice moves forward there could be an understanding of the energy that Venice has, and has always had, and to respect it and work with it, on both sides of the dollar.

Chase in the 80’s on the roof of her home on Rialto Ave. Courtesy: Ruth Chase.

Has the Project changed the way you think about Venice? If yes, how?

YES, BIG TIME. Now I understand why there is so much local pride and protectiveness about the outside world moving in. No different than any other small town, except Venice people have an edge. People think of Venice as LA but really it’s been a small town for a long time, many of it’s older residents staying primarily within its borders. Since this project, I can FEEL Venice, not just as a place or concept in my head, but as a living breathing place with energy that has a current running through it. I will never see Venice the way I did before because I know that the culture here is built on a vibe that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Venice by Ric Clayton.

What was the biggest thing you discovered working on the West of Lincoln Project?

Two things, one is that streets smarts have value and while street life is often romanticized by the mainstream. These life lessons are valuable to our culture, and for anyone who LOVES Venice, they could learn why and how Venice got to be the way that it is. If people want to keep Venice alive and real, they may want to understand the people who have lived here for awhile.

And secondly, I took much of my childhood that wasn’t great and was able to find value in the pain and suffering, which will forever change me moving forward. I no longer look back on my life and see it with judgment or ignore the dark days, but rather use my past to empower me.

Chase’s Self Portrait ‘You’re Stronger Than You Think’. Courtesy: Ruth Chase.

Will you always be a Venice girl?

YES, anyone who grew up in Venice feels this way. When people ask me where I’m from I say, I live in Nevada City, but I’m from Venice. Venice is my emotional birth home; no other place can replace that. There is a quality inside me that makes me feel different from other people when I am away from Venice, when I’m with Venice sisters and brothers, I feel something that is the same.

The West of Lincoln Project exhibition is at the new Venice Arts gallery space, east of Lincoln, at 13445 Beach Avenue. Join the opening reception on Saturday, August 5th from 4:00 pm – 8:00 pm. The exhibition runs until September 1st. 

Chase in her studio with her dog. Courtesy: Ruth Chase.